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May 25, 2012

Hey kid, do you like 90's metaplot characters?
Do you like them showing up in 2015!

Stone and a Hard Place is the third Plot Point campaign for Pinnacle's Deadlands Reloaded line. I picked this up on a whim for one reason. I had heard that the Deadlands Plot Point campaigns focused on defeating the setting’s big bads. Pinnacle has a tendency, to put it lightly, of over-protecting their NPCs, so when I saw that this one was about Stone, I had to see what they’d do.

The book contains both player and GM (Marshal) content. I’m only going to cover the background on Stone and the main adventure line. Finally, to be upfront, I’m not going to be fair to the content I’m going to cover. If you’re familiar with Deadlands, it’s probably clear why. If not, it should be pretty soon.

Lastly, if you’re unfamiliar with the Deadlands backstory, please check out the reviews in the F&F archive.

So what’s the big deal about Stone….
Normally, I’d just direct you to the existing Deadlands Classic F&F reviews, but this book promises the FULL STORY on Stone. I don’t know what’s new, so feel free to chime in on additions or changes. So saddle up, cowpokes. We’re in for a weird ride.

Stone: This is your life (pg 32 -39)
Jasper Stone was born in 1833 in Alabama. His mother dies in childbirth, so his four brothers and father are jerks and beat him. Also, even as a child, people can tell something’s off about him (he’s eeeeeeeeeeevil). He torments animals and eventually moves onto his family.

Timeskip to the Civil War, Stone joins the 13th Alabama army and fights for the Confederacy. At this point, he’s described as being an amazing soldier, faster and more accurate than anyone else. And he revels in killing. His skill causes him to rise to the rank of Captain, much to the surprise of his superiors. On July 1, 1863, the battle of Gettysburg occurs. The battle of the Gettysburg is when the Reckoners break out of their prison, causing the dead to rise and creates chaos on the battlefield. It’s the primary reason why the Civil War doesn’t end, since the battle isn’t the turning point for the war. Stone’s unit is caught in heavy fire and morale is breaking, both due to the attack and rumors of the walking dead. Stone doesn’t care for this and threatens to shoot any man who does not follow him in the charge. His men, realizing that one more dead officer isn’t going to be missed, shot Stone in the back with their muskets. The unit is overrun by the Union and Stone is dragged off to a medical tent.

But it is too late, the body was stone-cold (bad pun straight from book). While this happens, a demon from the Deadlands decides to possess Stone and make him a Harrowed. This demon was quite evil when it was a human, a fierce pirate. It created a fierce nightmare for Stone to experience, to break his will and make sure the demon would be in control. But Stone simply yawned and grabbed the demon by the throat.

“Maybe you ain’t heard o’ me. Name’s Stone. I will let you reside here, you filthy maggot, and I will make use of whatever power I can wring out of your wretched hide. But I am in charge. You’d do well to remember that”

The now undead and Harrowed Stone sat up, to the surprise of the surgeon pulling out musket balls from him and left. Immediately, Stone is visited by Death itself. Death is impressed at Stone and gives him an offer. But Stone refuses to listen to Death, saying he has to wait until Stone finishes a task. :nyd: Over the next few months, Stone hunts down the men who shot him in the back. He finds his brothers and kills them and their families. Finally, after returning each beating his father gave him, he burns him alive. Then he returns to Death, who is impressed.

Time to jump in a give some commentary. By now, you can start to see the issue with Stone as a character. He’s a walking collection of cliches. He’s the evil child and the bad-rear end. He’s better than everyone else. He’s unfazed by the creatures that caused the world to go to hell. And he brushes off Death and earns his respect. I’m sure Stone killed plenty, but he’s just a single guy. Death should have been “That’s nice, but I dealt with the Assyrians. Sit down and shut up.” I think this part of the backstory is new, but it adds nothing. Before, he was a faceless ‘bad-rear end’ who showed up to kill your characters. What does this add? Nothing, he’s just boring with no flaws.

Back to the story for some timey-whimey bullshit.
So Death has Stone hunt down heroes. By killing heroes, the world sinks deeper into fear. But Stone crosses another one of the Reckoner’s servants, Reverend Grimme. Grimme imprisons Stone for 23 years. Those 23 years are enough for humanity to fight back. The Reckoners, as a last ditch effort, send Stone back in time. The following events are detailed in the Devil’s Tower adventures ( Road to Hell, Heart o’ Darkness, Fortress of Fear). Old Stone (from the future) gets some heroes to break Young Stone out of Grimme’s prison. Young Stone and Old Stone try to create a Deadland on Earth, but are stopped by a group of heroes and and gunslinger from the future. Defeated, the two split up and do what they did best, kill heroes. Many more heroes are killed than in the previous timeline.

So that’s Stone, the NPC darling of Deadlands. Why is he so bad? In his first appearance back in Classic, he’s described as someone who shows up when the heroes get too strong. That’s fine, but the book goes out of it’s way to tell the Marshal’s that Stone should be unbeatable. Now he’s useless as an antagonist, since he should just kill anyone who stands up to him. Hope your players like running like scared dogs. And why was it so important that Stone remains alive. Why so their “story” could be told. And it does this in the worst possible way. In the part that describes the ‘canon’ events of the Devil’s Tower adventure, this book constantly refers to the heroes (i.e. the players) as dupes and fools, being lead around by the nose by the important metaplot npc. And the worst part, the reason this has to exist: Deadlands: Hell on Earth. That game needed the Reckoners to win. So instead of making it an alt-history or completely separate from Deadlans: Weird West, they had Stone kill your characters. Yep, everything you did was for naught because your heroes were killed by Stone.

But maybe this adventure changes things… Next up: Part One of Stone and a Hard Place.


May 25, 2012

Oh yeah, I have a review to do

Stone and a Hard Place


Pinnacle’s Plot Point campaigns work like this. There is the main campaign, which follows the standard format for a rpg adventure. Stone and a Hard Place has 8 ‘Plot Points’. The book also provides small, encounter-level scenarios called Savage Tales. The idea is you will use Savage Tales or your own scenarios, as setup for the campaign or to drop in between Plot Points. The Plot Point campaign provides an overarching story that you can customize to your needs.

Now onto the adventure…

Part 1: Shot Down at the OK Corral

The date is October 25, 1881 and the party finds themselves in Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone is on edge due to the conflict between an outlaw group called the Cowboys and the Earp family. This conflict is drawn from history and will color the first part of the adventure quite heavily.

The first scene opens in the Oriental Saloon. The saloon is very busy, with a crowd of miners and ranchers. Also present are Wyatt and Virgil Earp. The players overhear a conversation between the Earp brothers about two members of the Cowboys gang who just arrived in town. The two brothers finish their conversation and leave the saloon. The adventure states they leave too quickly for players to follow.

Shortly after the Earps leave, one of the ranch hands, Bixler Tate, begins to to denigrate the Earps, calling them “high-toned city slickers”. Tate eventually moves onto the player characters for some reason. He will continue to throw insults until the players start a fight. If that fails, he’ll start the fight himself. A frantic bar brawl starts immediately.

After the fight is sorted out, the players leave that Tate was a member of the Cowboys due to a hidden red scarf. Wyatt Earp returns and the bartender tells him of the player’s role in the fight. If the players stood up for the Earps, Wyatt gives them free cigars at the Oriental for perpetuity, which can’t be good business given how often the adventure makes it seem that fights are breaking out. Wyatt implies that the situation in Tombstone is worsening, but won’t go into specifics. Players searching for gossip find that the Cowboy’s leader, Ike Clanton, threatened Doc Holiday.

The next day, the players are found by the Earps at the Oriental. Ike Clanton is wandering the streets drunk with a rifle (quite the master plan). The Earps ask the players to disarm Clanton and deputize any players who say yes. The players can search for Clanton and apprehend him. :effort: The Earps drag Clanton off to the courthouse and the players can follow. The adventure does not describe anything of note happening.

At this point, tension in Tombstone is at an all time high and ready to burst. The sheriff informs the Earps that a group of Cowboys are gathering at the OK Corral and need to be disarmed. The Earps, and the players I guess, head out and confront the Cowboys. This leads to the famous Shootout at the OK Corral.

End of Part 1.

This adventure is not off to a good start. It starts with a lot of assumptions, mostly that your group of cowpokes will be friendly to the Earps’ cause. At least the adventure states that assumption right up front.

After that, the adventure is really more the Earp Show than the players. Adventures that have patron give out instructions are fine. But this one isn’t. The Earps drive the action and the players tag along. Even the encounter with Ike Clanton, where the Earps are not present, isn’t given any love. It’s one man against a group of players, described in a tiny paragraph. No standoff, no speech addressing the players, nothing. There’s more text of the Earps talking than that encounter.

Overall, this is starting out pretty poor. There’s zero player agency and reads like historical fan-fiction. Hoping that Earp-sempai will notice you is not fun.

Next time: Thank god there weren’t too many GMPCs in this chapter, cause here comes Stone!

jadarx fucked around with this message at 13:18 on Mar 20, 2016

May 25, 2012

Traveller posted:

To be fair, I don't think Wick had anything to do with this, aside from rumors of him pressganging Cris Dornaus into making pictures of Bayushi Kachiko for him. Keep in mind that way after he left AEG you had official art like this or this, or the infamous Genzoman NO, THIS IS HOW YOU FINGER A WOMAN piece. (all NSFW, incidentally.)

If 7th Sea 2nd ed's art is any indication, Wick seems to at least have gotten better. AEG (L5R and Doomtown) has consistently had that kind of art up to the day the games were canceled.

May 25, 2012

taichara posted:

You all think those iterations of O-Ushi are bad? Check out this "lovely" piece, just from a few years ago (Coils of Madness set) and the last artwork featuring her:

Yup, that's a fearsome type who laughs at innards alright.


May 25, 2012

Traveller posted:

Well, there was a Shinjo Genki...

Funny thing is, that he's not even the only NPC named Baka. And then there's people like Otomo Yoroshiku (from the set phrase yoroshiku onegaishimasu) or Suzume Mukashino (as in "mukashi no hanashi", "old tale")

Let us not forget Kuso

which means poo poo..

May 25, 2012

This Unity review is giving me very bad flashbacks of a Dresden Files game I 'played' at Gencon. Imagine playing this adventure, but its creator is running it. Watch as he takes interesting pregens and concept (kill a wizard) and instantly ruins it (the wizard is Harry Dresden). Experience him dropping character after character from the books in and feeling oh so clever. Players who liked the books want to experience the world, not view it. And the players who didn't like/read the books don't care about them. And everyone just wanted to play, not be accosted by npcs.


May 25, 2012

Leraika posted:

Pathfinder had a bunch of packs of cards you could buy with stuff like crit effects, didn't it?

DnD4 had cards during the tail end of its life (I think they started during the 'Essentials period). I remember having a few when playing in Encounters.

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